Pam Howell and Liz Tullis both have the same advice for individuals considering entering into the music education field -- be patient.

Both veteran music teachers -- Howell in the Daviess County public school system and Tullis in Owensboro public school system -- have a combined 47 years of experience educating the area's youngest minds.

Howell has been the music teacher at Highland Elementary School for 26 years, and Tullis has been the music specialist at Newton Parrish Elementary School for 21 years. Before that, each of them had experience teaching students in middle and high school, but both decided that elementary education was the place for them.

They both also say that jobs in the music education field, particularly in the elementary grades, are hard to come by. For one, individuals who find themselves in those positions tend to stay there for many years, as is the case for both Tullis and Howell. For another reason school districts more often than not are not investing in the arts.

The latter, however, is not the case locally, as both DCPS and OPS have been supporters of the arts not only in funding, but also in providing opportunities for students in all grades to partake in performing and musical arts. Such is the case that every elementary school across both districts have their own music educators, and educators of other art forms as well.

Howell has always known she was a "little people person," and has always had a passion for teaching elementary-aged children.

"I love just building that foundation. It's so warming," Howell said of teaching students in kindergarten through fifth grade. "You get to see them grow and progress through the years, and it's really something."

Tullis said she loves watching a child learn.

"The joy of seeing a child understand concepts, or especially feel the emotion of music is huge," Tullis said. "When that comes across their face, you can actually see it. It's incredible."

Tullis set out in music education she initially thought she was bound to teach college courses. After spending time educating high school students, and time as a child minister, she learned that younger children were her passion.

So when the position at Newton Parrish opened up and she applied and ultimately accepted the position, she knew it was the perfect fit.

Newton Parrish has several ensembles in which students can be involved from a very young age, as do most of the elementary schools across the OPS district. There is a choir ensemble, one for violins, hand chimes, and a new one that she called the bucket drums ensemble. Students choose themselves to participate in these before and after school.

The ensembles are not only another way for students to express themselves, but they are also feeder programs for the ensembles in middle and high schools, Tullis said.

One of Howell's goals is not to necessarily create other music educators, although that is a bonus, instead she wants students to become makers and appreciators of music. She works hard to incorporate real-life and other core content areas in her music education. That way, students can pin-point pieces of music and instruments when they are doing everyday things.

"We cannot put into words the power of music," Howell said. "It can get us going at a ball game with a pep band, or make us cry. Try watching 'Jaws' and turn the volume down and see if you still get scared."

Howell's students also participate in ensembles before and after school, or on their own time. One ensemble, in particular, is percussion. Students have taken to naming the instruments, which is their fun way of taking ownership, Howell. said.

Both Howell and Tullis know that they have chosen the right paths for themselves. The advice they give to others who are interested in music education is to not only be patient, but to also continue to be a lover of music. Keep education fresh and fun, and try to instill it in everyday life, they both say.

"This is the foundation on which they build their entire musical lives," Howell said.

Tullis agreed and said as an elementary educator it's her job to not only introduce music instruments, and history to students, but also to teach them how to appreciate it.

"Music is the universal language," she said.

Bobbie Hayse, bhayse@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7315

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